If the logo of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel looks familiar, there’s a good reason. The hotel, which opened in May 2015 in an 1893 Victorian Gothic building, was originally home to an athletic club for men. One of its earliest members, William Wrigley, appropriated the logo for his baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.
When the original athletic club closed in 2007 and was in danger of being demolished, hotelier John Pritzker, AJ Capital Partners LLC, and Geolo Capital purchased the building. A massive two-year renovation began in 2013, transforming the space into a luxury hotel. Many of the building’s original features remain, including the intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, and dramatic stalactite-covered ceiling in the ballroom. The flooring from the former fencing room was re-purposed to line the elevator.
The 241 guestrooms vary wildly in size and scope due to the building’s quirky layout, but all incorporate the building's history through athletic-inspired touches, including a gymnast’s pommel horse at the foot of the bed, table legs covered in tennis wrap, and a desk that resembles weight lifting equipment. Bathrooms are lined with white subway tiles and marble countertops to resemble a stylish locker room, and come with vintage-inspired boxing bathrobes, which are embroidered with the slogan, “One size fits all: Featherweights, welterweights & heavyweights.”
The lobby level is vast but manages to have a cozy vibe, thanks to oversized fireplaces. The game room, situated in the former boxing ring, is now home to a sprawling bocce court as well as a bar and tables for playing checkers and chess. Creative bar food, like pickle pops and wild boar sausage sandwiches, is available, along with cocktails and beer. During the day, the Milk Bar, a Prohibition-era speakeasy, serves coffee and pastries; at night, it transforms into an eight-room bar serving cocktails made from rare ingredients (reservations are recommended).
The hotel also has plenty of dining options. For a quick bite, try the street-level outpost of Shake Shack. The Cherry Circle Room offers twists on classic dishes, such as corned beef and duck hash and Belgian waffles with mascarpone and pistachio butter. Or, snag a spot at Cindy’s, a rooftop eatery set within a vaulted, glass atrium; in summer, the doors open to a terrace looking out over Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. The vibe is casual and fun. Meals are served family style so bring an appetite -- and a large group of friends. Rates start at $245 per night.